You’re Privileged. Do Something About It

These are some quotes from a speech about white privilege that was recently given to the students of Jeppe High School for Boys.

Dear white pupils, you’re privileged. Do something about it. …

Let’s talk about white privilege. …

Many (if not most) of the white people in this hall today come from working-class or middle-class families, who have had to work hard for what they have. And so when we hear the words “white privilege” we become defensive because we think that our hardships and hard work are being dismissed. …

They worked hard. All of them. And I’m sure that they would argue that they were never given a hand-up or a hand-out. They worked themselves out of poverty. But here’s the thing: the only reason they were able to, was because they were white. Their whiteness meant that their hard work was allowed to amount to something. …

You see, no one is saying that white people don’t work hard. But what I am saying is, their hard work was and is allowed to amount to something because the pool was rigged in their favour. …

Imagine playing a video game where the save function was disabled and you were unable to accumulate experience points. That’s what it was like being black during apartheid.

No matter how hard you worked, or how much money you earned, you couldn’t own land, businesses, or homes. You couldn’t buy your kids a safer suburb to grow up in or buy them a better education. Every generation started back at zero.

Being white was like being the only one with a save function. Everyone was working through the game, but only white people got to accumulate an advantage.

I want to make this crystal clear: saying that white people enjoy a privilege is not saying that their lives are easy or that they haven’t worked hard. White people are not immune to the human condition, they suffer loss and hardship like everyone else.

So then what is it? What is white privilege? For me, it’s
simply a preference for whiteness that saturates our society. …

As a white man, I benefit daily from the colour of my skin. Daily. And let’s just remember what that privilege comes from. I benefit because crimes against humanity were committed. Torture, murder, rape, humiliation, oppression … that’s the source of my advantage.

Now how am I supposed to feel about that? What do we do with that?
I can almost guarantee that, after this speech, I will receive angry e-mails from parents complaining that their white sons were made to feel bad about themselves. Maybe that’s because when you are used to privilege – when you become accustomed to it – equality feels like oppression.
Making you feel bad about yourselves is certainly not my intention here today. You have no reason to feel ashamed. After all, none of you were born when the crimes that have created your advantage were committed. But I will tell you what I feel is an appropriate way to respond.

Stop denying it. Stop pretending that it isn’t real. Stop throwing your hands in the air at the very mention of it.

As a start, I am going to ask you to be grateful for your privilege, and realise that through no fault of yours, or their own, millions of people are worse off and don’t deserve to be. The best thing to do is just acknowledge it.

You have been given an unfair advantage. So use it. Do something meaningful with it. Or don’t. But whatever you do, don’t deny it. Your denial is not harmless. In my mind, it should be a crime. …

My challenge: do something.

Kevin Leathem and Tammy Bechus – The “P” Word